Dead Island 2 Recreates the Perfect Zombie Killing Force Fantasy (Hands-on Preview)

The time has finally come. Nearly a decade after its original announcement at E3 2014, Dead Island 2 is finally here, with the official release date slated for around two months.

But the question is: after all this time, can this sequel to a cult classic live up to the hype? Luckily, after around six hours of playing the game, it’s fair to say that Dead Island 2 has taken everything that was fun about its predecessor and ramped up the excitement.

Story wise, the plot is your typical zombie trope adventure as you must survive amidst an outbreak in the California quarantine zone. However, it’s important to note that this isn’t The Last of Us. Dead Island 2 fully embraces Sam Raimi’s campy horror take on the zombie apocalypse.

Regardless of which of the six main characters you choose, 90 percent of the dialogue will be banter. There will be some serious moments here and there, but for the most part the game doesn’t take itself too seriously – there’s even a side mission where you kill zombies for an influencer on the live stream.

Image source: Deep Silver

Just because they’re all pranksters, it still matters to choose between the survivors, the Slayers. Each member has their own unique dialogue, abilities, and skill cards that allow you to play the game in a specific way.

For example, Dani, a punk rock roller derby player, likes to get up close and personal, using skills like Thunder and Bloodthirst to deal serious melee damage. On the other hand, Amy, an athletic LA native, is all about speed and agility. She uses abilities like Relief Pitcher and Divide and Conquer to deal critical damage while avoiding being hit.

As with most attribute systems, anyone you pick for a strength will also have a glaring weakness. While Dani is no slouch when it comes to speed, she can also be sluggish; Although Amy is fast, she is not very tough. Luckily, there are plenty of ability cards throughout the game that allow you to boost stats to smooth out these pitfalls.

Maps can be found by completing side missions or objectives, or simply scattered around the area. The beauty of this is that you can unlock and swap more slots depending on the situation. Need a damage-heavy card instead of one that focuses on speed? Just shuffle the one that’s active in the skill card menu for a nice gameplay balance.

I chose Jacob as I found it hard to resist the allure of his sultry British jokes and history as a stunt double. It also helps that his character’s stats were very balanced, with a high focus on health as I’m very bad at video games.

After about 30 minutes or so the fight really started to click. There’s a lot of focus on melee weapons in the early stages of Dead Island 2, as you’ll pick up a variety of minable items lying around the area, such as rebars and crowbars.

In fact, I didn’t touch a weapon the entire time I played the preview build. If you had told me that before playing, I might have been a bit concerned as I’ve always been more of a weapon type than a melee focused player.

However, thanks to Dead Island 2’s focus on weapon customization and environmental effects, I ended up enjoying the combat so much that I didn’t even realize I didn’t end up using a weapon. Using the resources and items that can be gathered in the environment, I was able to mod all sorts of crazy weapons for Jacob.

Image source: Deep Silver

Whether it was my electric machete or my flaming hammer, it was a lot of fun creating all sorts of different weapons, especially since, like skill cards, some were more useful than others depending on the situation. As much as I loved my hammer, there was no point in using it when fighting the jacked, revived Bridezilla boss I had to fight at the hotel.

Instead, the electric machete made a lot more sense since the environment was surrounded by water, making the shock damage that much more intense. Dead Island 2 takes full advantage of its environment in this way, making for some really satisfying scenarios.

If you’re being chased by a burning runner and see a fire hydrant, open the thing and let the zombie run through it. Not only does this prevent you from taking incendiary damage from an attack, but it also drains the enemy’s health.

All in all, if you’re someone who loves a good zombie movie, you’ll probably love living out your fantasy of surviving an undead apocalypse (from the comfort of your home) in Dead Island 2. Be find out for yourself, though it will be released on April 21, 2023 for PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC. Dead Island 2 Recreates the Perfect Zombie Killing Force Fantasy (Hands-on Preview)

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